Nominated by President Barack Obama, Julius Genachowski became chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2009. He had already played a leading role in the Obama campaign’s online strategy and remains a strong advocate for a free and open Internet. Genachowski attended both Columbia University and Harvard Law School with Obama and both were top editors at the Harvard Law Review. After Harvard, Genachowski clerked for the Honorable Abner J. Mikva on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and then at the U.S. Supreme Court for two years for Justices William J. Brennan and David Souter. He also served as chief counsel to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.

You may not know that Genachowski spent more than 10 years working in the technology industry as an executive and entrepreneur. From 1997– 2005, he was a senior executive at IAC/InterActiveCorp, a Fortune 500 company. He co-founded LaunchBox Digital, a Washington, D.C.-based start-up, and Rock Creek Ventures. He was also a special advisor at General Atlantic and co-founded the New Resource Bank, the country’s first commercial “green” bank.

Genachowski has focused on consumers, competition, investment and innovation. I3 recently had a chance to ask him about CES, his favorite CE product and increasing spectrum for mobile devices.


Why do you attend CES?

I am a huge fan of CES. I come every year to discover new products and meet the innovators and disruptors creating them. When you’re at CES, you can’t miss seeing our mobile future: there are breakthrough devices everywhere you look that illustrate the tremendous power of technology to transform our lives and our economy. Mobile innovation is estimated to have created well over one million U.S. jobs over the past four years, and a study last month showed that for every high-tech job created, roughly four more jobs are created in the community. The people and technologies at CES are on the front lines of these terrific trends.

What is your favorite CE product?

My favorite part about CES is that virtually every new product on the CES floor is fueled by connectivity to high-speed Internet, and almost every single product is wirelessly connected. If you shut off the Internet, virtually nothing on the CES floor would work. That’s why our agenda at the FCC to free up spectrum to address the growing demand for mobile broadband is so important.

How can we increase spectrum for mobile devices?

As we see every year on the CES show floor, the consumer electronics industry is wireless, and the future success of this industry and our nation’s innovation future depends on unleashing more spectrum— the oxygen that sustains our mobile devices. To seize the opportunities of our mobile future, we need to free up more spectrum. Without more spectrum, network congestion will grow, and consumer frustration will grow with it. We’ll put our country’s economic competitiveness at risk and squander the opportunity to lead the world in our global leadership in mobile.

The Commission is focused on clearing spectrum for auction whenever possible, while also pursuing other approaches to making spectrum available for broadband, including spectrum sharing. This is not an either/ or choice—we must use an “all of the above” strategy to unlock the full value of our spectrum resources.

That’s why the Commission has developed major policy innovations to free up spectrum. We are moving forward with a bold new plan for incentive auctions—a new policy that uses market forces to repurpose “beachfront” spectrum from current use by TV broadcasters to use for licensed (think 4G LTE) and unlicensed (think Wi-Fi) wireless broadband. We are on track to auction 75 MHz of licensed spectrum by 2015.

Second, the Commission is removing regulatory barriers to flexible spectrum use. In 2012 we removed outdated rules and restrictions on 70 MHz of spectrum. Third, we’re clearing new bands for flexible broadband use. The Commission is moving forward with a bold new plan: incentive auctions—a new paradigm in spectrum policy that uses market forces to repurpose beachfront spectrum used by TV broadcasters for licensed and unlicensed wireless broadband. There are also significant opportunities to clear and re-allocate underutilized government spectrum for commercial use.

We’re also moving forward on dynamic sharing. In 2010, we created a new spectrum sharing paradigm by allowing unlicensed devices to access valuable unused spectrum in between broadcast TV channels known as “white spaces.” That action freed up the most new low-band unlicensed spectrum in 25 years. The FCC also recently launched a rulemaking to use database technology to enable sharing between commercial broadband and military radar systems in the 3.5 GHz band.